Troy Grice of Groveton, Texas, was indicted on February 25, 2021, by a grand jury in Jasper County on the charge of Timber Purchase as Trustee with Intent to Defraud. Grice is charged with defrauding a Jasper County landowner of between $20,000 and $100,000 worth of timber – a felony of the third degree.
Timber theft can take a variety of forms – from harvesting timber without the landowner’s knowledge or consent, to entering into a formal agreement, harvesting a landowners timber, and then not paying them the full purchase price.
“The past few years we have seen an increase in Timber Fraud cases. Most of these cases started off with a legitimate contract, but then the landowner only receives partial payment, or no payment at all,” said Josh Mizrany, Investigator with Texas A&M Forest Service Law Enforcement Department.
Grice, 49, entered into a timber harvesting agreement through his company Apex Timber with a Jasper county landowner in January of 2019 to harvest 314 acres of their timber. The harvest was halted by the landowner in April of 2019, after delinquent payments started occurring, and the landowner reached out to Texas A&M Forest Service law enforcement for help.
Texas A&M Forest Service Law Enforcement are subject matter experts on the Texas Natural Resource Code, which is designed to protect landowners.
“The Texas Natural Resource Code has a section which states that money collected from timber is trust money,” said Mizrany. “And if the trustee of that money doesn’t pay all of the beneficiaries for the timber within 45 days of the timber being sold, that person has committed the offense of timber fraud.”
Once the Texas A&M Forest Service Law Enforcement Department was notified of the unpaid balance, they began investigating the case. Through their investigation, Texas A&M Forest Service was able to verify that Grice had not paid all of the trust money owed to the landowner.
Grice was arrested under warrant on March 5, 2020, in Trinity County. The case was turned in to District Attorney Anne Pickle, who brought the case before a grand jury. After hearing testimonies, the grand jury decided that there was probable cause for Grice to be charged with a felony of the third degree.
Meanwhile, Mizrany can’t stress enough the importance of involving Texas A&M Forest Service in any case of suspected timber fraud or timber theft.
“If you go into an agreement with a timber harvesting company and payment has stopped, or you’re not receiving all of the revenue that you’re owed—that they’ve contractually agreed to—it’s important to notify the Texas A&M Forest Service law enforcement department right away,” said Mizrany.
If you are unfamiliar with selling timber, you are urged to contact your local Texas A&M Forest Service office. Our field staff will assist you with securing the assistance of a professional resource manager to help select trees for harvest, estimate values and find potential buyers.
For more information, visit https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/lawenforcement/reporttimbertheft/
Or to report suspected timber theft activities, call the timber theft hotline at 1-800-364-3470.